I really enjoy the work of Tom Hodgkinson. Although I haven't seen an actual issue of The Idler, his two books: The Idler's Companion and How to Be Idle have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart.
Of particular interest to my purposes here are his comments on walking, or rambling, and how it complements an idle life. There is one area, however, on which Hodgkinson and I are completely at odds: Walking with a dog.
Consider the following from the chapter on walking in How to be Idle:
The twentieth-century philosopher and radical political thinker Walter Benjamin was particularly captivated by the idea of the flaneur. He produced a giant piece of work called the. Arcades, which is a compendium of thousands of short reflections and aphorisms, some his own, some quoted from others. It is a classic piece of flânerie; the reader can easily picture Benjamin, notebook in one hand, pipe in the other, taking notes on his observations. It is in this work, for example, that Benjamin imparts the following gem:
In 1819 it was considered elegant to take a tortoise out walking. This gives us an idea of the tempo of the flânerie in the arcades.
A tortoise on a lead! How wonderful. And so much more calming than the hyperactive, sniffing, yapping, snorting, pissing, dashing dog. (Why do people have dogs? I do not understand them.)
What is it exactly that Hodgkinson doesn't understand? The dogs or the people who have them? Never mind, it doesn't matter, because he's wrong, wrong, wrong.
Dogs are the best. Yes, dogs can be hyper, sniffy, yappy, pissy, and dashing, but not snorty (dogs typically don't snort), and the best canine walking companions are none (... or almost none) of these things.
Donut, who's pictured here, is one such dog. He's the ultimate walking buddy, and my regular walking companion. And you can tell by the look on his face that he thinks Hodgkinson's take is rubbish. He can go for miles and miles and miles and, aside from pissing on things, he's pretty calm, cool, and collected. He never barks or yaps and doesn't even know the word hyper. He is sniffy -- he's a hound, after all -- but, nose to the ground, he's always down to grind his nails on cement and or pavement anywhere, at any time, and at any speed.
Hodgkinson's take on dogs and walking has a similar flavor to the assertions of the uptight religious set who contend that animals don't have souls. Clearly, anyone who believes this has never bonded with an animal. That's their loss, but because they don't know or they're incapable of doing so, they stick their noses in the air and fling arbitrary edicts from their illusory positions of authority. F them and their judgemental judgey-ness.
My guess is that Hodgkinson doesn't like dogs because he doesn't know dogs. (Perhaps he's too lazy to make an effort?) After all, if Hodgkinson deems a slow stroll with a dog an impossibility, then he should find an old dog and test this theory. If he did, I bet he'd find that no animal strolls, rambles, or even saunters like an old, gray-haired mutt.